In today’s Sunday Poser, Sadje asks us what we do when we get angry. She seems to mean this question in two ways: firstly, how we express our anger and secondly, how we cope with it and calm down again.
I have always been relatively quick to anger. Particularly, my tolerance for frustration and distress is very low and I tend to express this as anger. During such episodes of distress, I may scream, yell, slam doors, etc. Over the past year, I’ve even occasionally shown slight physical aggression towards people.
To cope with this type of anger, my best strategy is to enlist the help of others to get me to think through whatever was causing me frustration or distress and/or to help me solve the problem. Usually, temporarily removing myself from the situation might help a tiny bit, but it will not help in the long run, as it will not get rid of the source of frustration.
Then there are these situations in which I’m angry because someone is being unjust towards me. When I am angry at being treated unjustly, similarly, removing myself will help for a while, but not in the long run. Assertiveness can help in that it allows me to properly voice my needs, wants and rights. I am still working on this, in that I tend too often to avoid properly advocating for myself and instead resort to less helpful ways of making it clear that I’m struggling.
When there is nothing I can do about the anger or its source at a given moment, what helps me is to safely express it, such as by hitting a pillow. I also used to sing certain songs that spoke to me. For example, there is a Dutch song called “Laat me” (“Leave me”) that I would always sing at music club when I was irritated at my treatment team in the mental hospital back in the early years. Now, hitting a pillow and screaming has the same effect.
After I recover from my anger outbursts, I do like to talk through what was causing them, whether I can solve the problem at hand or not. I, after all, find that other emotions are often masked as anger, such as shame, sadness or fear. By talking through my anger after safely having expressed it, I can often get to the bottom of what is troubling me.
How do you cope with anger?